I totally agree with you that the Russian, the Chinese, and every other Empire, has always played the same dirty games with other people's lives, Dave. The Russian Empire under Putin is not much different from the Russian Empire under Stalin, or the Russian Empire under the Tsars. A dictatorship run by oligarchs, gangsters and their trained thugs, ruling over a population with no cultural history of democracy or political free expression, administered by a vast and labyrinthine bureaucracy, that regards 'the rest of the world' as a kind of bloody chessboard, on which it seeks to outplay its global rivals..
I use 'capitalism' as the villain in the piece today because, currently, it is capitalism that is driving the game, not only in the West, but also in Russia and to a large extent even in China.
Stalin's central policy was called 'Socialism in a single country' at home, and 'Peaceful roads to socialism' abroad. It was quite cynical. He was aware that the working-class movements in Western Eurpope, and the middle class social/cultural structures in those countries, would not tolerate the dictatorship that the people of Russia had no means to overthrow. At no time did the Soviet Union make any attempt to 'invade' Western Europe, except in the 1940s. After the Nazis invaded Russia, and then started to fall back, they left behind them populations, disorganised and disrupted by war, and already demoralised by years under a military dictatorship. These countries must have looked very attractive to Stalin. His armies were already moving in that direction, and it was easier to drive them on then let them come home, armed, organised and not pleased with him. They could set up little satellite dictatorships, without the risk of being rapidly overthrown.
The 'Capitalist threat' was useful to Stalin as a way of keeping the Russian people in subjugation. The 'Communist threat' was useful to America, as a way of keeping their population committed to Capitalism. In fact neither Stalinism nor Capitalism ever posed a real threat to each other, except occasionally the threat of mutual nuclear obliteration.
It is time we stopped this foolish habit of 'loyalty' to this or that system, regime, or set of political rulers. War serves their interests, not ours.